Coastguard staff angry at loss of Christmas bonuses

Anthony CarrollCoastguards responsible for organising rescues along the Norfolk and Suffolk coast have had a Christmas allowance stopped - despite senior management posts enjoying bumper pay rises.Anthony Carroll

Coastguards responsible for organising rescues along the Norfolk and Suffolk coast have had a Christmas allowance stopped - despite senior management posts enjoying bumper pay rises.

The team of 24 coastguards at the Yarmouth rescue co-ordination centre at Havenbridge House, which covers the Humber to Southwold, have been told they will not be receiving their annual �10 seasonal allowance this year.

A union official last night described the national move to stop the coastguards' allowance for a festive drink or meal as demoralising.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) says the allowances are being scrapped as it feels it is not an appropriate way to spend public money during the present economic climate.

And there was further anger from the Public Commercial Services union (PCS) after senior positions at the MCA received pay rises of up to 15pc this year.

The loss of the �10 allowance and rise in senior management wages comes as coastguards continue their fight to increase their pay to be on par with other emergency services.

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After a series of strikes and other industrial action, a coastguard assistant at Yarmouth working 12 hour shifts still starts on as little as �13,260 per year - just above the minimum wage.

Peter Wheeler, PCS branch secretary at Havenbridge House, who earns 20,000 a year after serving as a coastguard for nine years, said the stoppage of the allowance was rubbing salt into wounds.

Mr Wheeler said: 'Everyone is demoralised here. What is �10 to the MCA - it is not going to break the bank is it?

'It is just a case of penny pinching and rubs salt into the wound.

'We see the allowance as reward for our hard work during the year and it allows us to enjoy a pint or meal together.'

The PCS also strongly criticised the MCA after it said the organisation's annual report showed that its chief executive, Peter Cardy, pay had risen by 7.6pc to �137,000 this year.

A reorganisation of MCA directors also led to pay rises of up to 15pc set by the Department of Transport.

Paul Smith from the PCS national headquarters said: 'Coastguards working for the MCA feel like they have been stabbed in the back. Every day our members save lives with their professionalism, expertise and speed in responding to 999 and distress calls.

'Yet they have to put up with pay rates that compare pitifully to other emergency services while senior managers enjoy bumper pay rises.'

A MCA spokeswoman said: 'We confirm that MCA will not be subsidising Christmas meals for their personnel this year.

'As a government body we are held accountable for our expenditure and in the current economic climate we feel it is no longer appropriate to spend even a small amount of public money in this way.'

The MCA also defended the pay rises by saying that the number of directors had fallen from five to three and that the new posts were more demanding and required higher levels of experience. Only one previous director remained in their post.

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